Meet the Finalists for the 9th Annual Social Enterprise of the Year Awards

Aspire returns as an in-person celebration of the social enterprise community in Central Ohio on Friday, September 17, 2021. The evening will not only feature a keynote interview with Bill Tucker, executive director of Flywheel Social Enterprise Hub in Cincinnati, but the ninth annual Social Enterprise of the Year Awards, presented by The Metropreneur and SocialVentures.

Learn more about the two awards that will be presented at Aspire 2021, and meet the finalists whose social enterprises make the community better day in and day out through their employment models, profit donations and more.

The Emerging Social Enterprise of the Year Award recognizes local for-profit businesses, independent nonprofits or businesses of an existing nonprofit with a socially-driven mission that are in the early stages of their business development or operational for less than 18 months.

180 Demo

Spinning out of long-standing social enterprise CleanTurn, 180 Demo officially launched in 2020, providing selective demolition services for the commercial construction industry. 180 Demo not only provides safe, professional services, but supportive employment and a stepping stone into the construction industry for the previously incarcerated.

180 Demo’s supportive employment model helps its employees achieve important goals on the path to self sustainability like getting a driver’s license, finding housing or seeking help with addiction. 180 Demo works directly with incarcerated individuals that are soon to be released to help put them on the path to sustainable employment and reduce recidivism. The social enterprise is focused on the importance of creating a positive and successful work environment in the first 90 days and has recently increased their 90-day retention rate from 50% to 80%. Additionally, over 25% of 180 Demo’s staff has experienced positive attrition, moving onto other gainful employment – a statistic they hope to increase as they expand to other locations across the state and the country.

Renter Mentor

The coronavirus pandemic has brought into even sharper relief the nation’s affordable housing crisis. In Central Ohio alone, there’s a 54,000 plus unit shortage of affordable housing and some 3,000 plus individuals experiencing homelessness. Renter Mentor wants to help close that gap by bringing clarity and efficiency to the affordable housing market through its website that helps connect landlords and tenants. Renter Mentor is about more than just connections, but provides supportive services to the property owners and landlords it recruits into the ecosystem, as well as to residents they serve through temporary rental and utilities assistance, advocacy and more.

Since its launch in 2020, Renter Mentor has recruited over 70 property owners and connected over 200 households with housing. With its focus on advocacy, Renter Mentor has hosted over 25 affordable housing workshops and provided testimony for Source of Income legislation for communities around Central Ohio.

What the Waffle

What the Waffle recently achieved a major milestone by any business’ standards: celebrating one year since opening the doors to their King-Lincoln District restaurant – in the middle of a global pandemic. And What the Waffle achieved this goal while providing employment opportunities for young women aging out of the foster care system.

What the Waffle Owner Gayle Troy has facilitated work readiness workshops at Franklin County Children Services for emancipating females and has also provided direct employment opportunities for young women through her restaurant. In the last year, What the Waffle has created five part-time positions, providing employees training on new skill-sets and introducing them to individuals, agencies and organizations that can assist with housing, higher education and full-time employment. Two of What the Waffle’s employees have enrolled in higher education institutions, with one training to take the next step as the restaurant’s manager. Troy hopes to expand the number of women she can help with a second location that includes dine-in seating.

The Social Enterprise of the Year Award recognizes social enterprises of any structure with a social mission and demonstrable impact that have also helped to give social enterprise a name as a way to do business in Central Ohio.

Franklinton Cycle Works

Franklinton Cycle Works is more than just a full-service bike shop, but has become an important community resource for those facing transportation insecurity. For over a decade, the shop has been providing free access to education, and low cost bikes, parts and accessories. The social enterprise’s holistic approach sees riders use bikes to their fullest potential by helping them not only be safe through bike up keep, but ride safe through educational opportunities.

In 2021 alone, Franklinton Cycle Works has welcomed more than 2,000 visitors to its shop, sold more than 400 low-cost bikes and given away hundreds more. Twenty chronically poor individuals have been outfitted with a free bike, lock, light set, and helmet in partnership with other Columbus nonprofits. Events like Bike School and Community Rides have also helped nearly 200 individuals learn everything from how to repair their own bikes, to how to cycle on city streets. Recently, Franklinton Cycle Works has cemented its place in the neighborhood by purchasing and renovating the building that houses its shop.

Growlers Dog Bones

After being honored as the Emerging Social Enterprise of the Year in 2017, Growlers Dog Bones has continued on its mission to provide employment opportunities for individuals with disabilities. Growlers now works with nearly two dozen breweries across Central Ohio to turn their spent grain into dog bones, crafted and baked by the social enterprise’s five employees. In addition to a growing retail presence at local shops and breweries, Growlers Dog Bones can be found at events where employees have the opportunity to interact with customers.

Selling at events is just one way Growlers helps its employees build their skill sets. Employees also help with tasks like delivery and are encouraged to flex their creativity by developing new products – which has added Meowers, a cat-nip spray, to their product lineup. Now working out of space at Columbus State Community College’s Mitchell Hall, Growlers is seeking Department of Developmental Disabilities agency status to facilitate substantial growth in vocational training and potential employment.

The Roosevelt Foundation

A cup (or bag!) of coffee that does good! The Roosevelt Foundation, which includes The Roosevelt Coffeehouse as well as Roosevelt Coffee Roasters, is using coffee to fight the injustices of hunger, unclean water, and human trafficking.

Since 2015, The Roosevelt social enterprise has grown to two coffee shops and a licensed location, and launched its own roastery. Through its social enterprise model of donating profits, The Roosevelt’s impact has been felt around the globe. The roastery’s purchasing power has supported coffee farmers from Kenya and Ethiopia, to Columbia, Mexico and Peru. Despite the challenges of 2020, The Roosevelt donated more than ever – over $42,000 to various organizations and funds that provided thousands of meals, supplies and more to those in need. The social enterprise also kept frontline healthcare workers caffeinated through the pandemic, donating some 1,700 bags of coffee.

Aspire 2021 will be held from 6 – 9 p.m. on Friday, September 17 at Brick House Blue in Dublin. The event is made possible with support from SocialVentures and Barnes & Thornburg.

For more information and to purchase your tickets for $15, click here.

Thank you to event sponsors SocialVentures and Barnes & Thornburg LLP